Sequel: In Unexpected Places

Against the Odds

Against the Odds - Chapter One

Alex looked up from her computer at the knock on her doorway. There was a pretty brunette standing there with a briefcase, holding a small smile while she waited.

“Hello, can I help you?” Alex asked politely.

The brunette stepped forward a touch into her office. “I’m looking for Alexandra Morgan. I’m Charlotte Blakely from the Prince’s Charity Office.”

“Oh, of course! Ms. Blakely, please come in. I’m so sorry; I was caught up in some paperwork. I am Alexandra, but please, call me Alex.” Alex stood up and came around her desk, holding her hand out for Ms. Blakely, which she took and shook firmly.

“Thank you, Alex. And please, call me Charlotte.”

“Pleased to meet you. Please, sit down. Can I get you anything to drink? Water?” Alex asked brightly.

“Water would be lovely,” Charlotte responded gratefully as she sat gracefully into one of the chairs in front of Alex’s desk. She accepted the cold bottle with a smile when Alex handed it to her from the small fridge hidden in her cabinet. “I didn’t know you were an American,” Charlotte remarked as Alex slid back into her desk chair and turned to her, glad to finally be meeting the woman she had corresponded with by email for the past two weeks.

“Ah, yes. Well, I am from America, but technically a British citizen now,” Alex said with a warm smile.

“Well, Britain is lucky to have you Alex. And really, thank you for letting us come in today,” Charlotte said. “We are really excited about doing an event here and so grateful that you are willing to share your work with us. The boss is running a few minutes late, a meeting ran over, but he should be here shortly.”

“Please, I’m honored that our tiny little organization was worthy. Having Prince Harry come and give us some support would do us so much good. Especially since he is a military man,” Alex said with a grin. Her big blue eyes were excited, not at the prospect of the Prince, but at the prospect of bringing some big attention to the organization she founded.

Four years ago Alex had stepped out on a limb, opening up weekly group meetings for men and women whose spouses had died while serving in the armed forces. After the first year Healing Families Through Friends expanded to children who had lost parents in the armed forces as well. Her tiny little weekly group meeting in a low rent part of London and grown enough and gained enough funding from the right sources that she had been able to rent a bigger space in a better part of London. Now she, as well as her three employees had actual offices and didn’t have to work part time jobs to survive in this ridiculously expensive city.

To Alex though, this wasn’t just something she did because she cared about people who had lost a loved one in a war, she was one of those people. Alex’s husband, John, was a member of the British Army who lost his life when the Apache Helicopter he was piloting went down five years ago. What she realized after a long period of depression and many appointments several therapists who were very nice, but didn’t seem to help, was that the only people who could really understand her were people who had been through what she went through. It was then that she decided to help people find people like her have access to the people who understood them.

Charlotte silently admired the young woman in front of her. When she had received the request from HFTF to be considered to have Prince Harry as a patron, Charlotte researched the organization and its founder and had immediately brought it to Harry. Harry had agreed to set up a meet and greet and an initial event, liking the goals it presented. During their correspondence, Charlotte had been very impressed with Alex’s concern for the privacy of her clients as well as protecting the integrity of her organization. The benefits of having Prince Harry has a patron would bring her opportunities for funding and resources she desperately wanted to be able to help more people, but she wanted to keep the small, comfortable feel for the people who visited she had managed to maintain. Charlotte had been fast to assure Alex that while any members of the organization could attend the event and have a chance to meet Prince Harry, only those who agreed would be on camera. In essence, there would be a public meet and greet and a more private one after with no cameras. Once Alex agreed, the ball was set in motion.

“We are very interested in what you have going on here. Prince Harry is very much looking forward to the event next week. This visit for us is really just to look around and get down some of the basics we don’t have yet…” Charlotte trailed off as her mobile rang, the ringtone indicating it was Harry. “It’s the boss, I have to answer. Do you mind?”

Alex shook her head. “Not at all, please do.”

“Sir,” Charlotte said as she placed the phone to her ear. “Yes, I am already here….yes…ten minutes? Fine, see you then.”

“Sorry,” Charlotte said as she hit the end button on her phone and placed it back into her bag. “He will be here in ten minutes. Are your employees here? We would like to meet them as well and I didn’t see anyone on the way in.”

Alex smiled and nodded her head, her light blonde locks bouncing on her shoulder. “Yes, they are here. They are all upstairs with groups. We like to keep the offices and meetings separate. It’s easier if the clients can meet us on the main floor and then go upstairs. We found people were more comfortable that way. Now, I’m sorry…who is your boss? You never mentioned who was coming with you today, you just said ‘the boss’.”

Charlotte raised her eyebrows, a small smile forming on her lips. “Yes, the big boss. Prince Harry.”
Alex look startled for a moment, but recovered quickly, instead looking somewhat impressed. “I’m sorry, I should have understood that,” she said with a laugh. “I just assumed you would come in, get all the information for him, and then he would come in next week for the event. I didn’t realize he would do the pre-visit with you.”

Charlotte couldn’t help but like the pretty blonde in front of her. Unlike most women her age, she hadn’t been once concerned about meeting Harry or even really asked about him other than to question just how involved he was with the charities he supported and to make sure that he would be able to give her organization proper support. And just now, she hadn’t blushed or immediately dived for a compact and lipstick to get ready for his arrival. She simply looked pleased he would be there to check things out. The funny thing was, Charlotte knew Harry very well, having worked with him for years, and she knew that Harry would take an instant liking to Alex with her light blonde hair, bright blue eyes, sweet smile, and warm personality. She hoped Alex would be able to keep Harry at bay. She suspected she would if it was for the good of her organization.

Turning her attention towards the task at hand, she smiled brightly at Alex. “Yes, Prince Harry is very involved. He always visits privately before a public visit. He isn’t fond of cameras and likes to get the feel of a place without them. Are you okay with meeting him today? Nervous?”

Alex laughed, waving her hand in the air. “Oh no, not at all. I’m fine. I’m thrilled he will get a chance to get a feel for us without the hoopla.”

“Great,” Charlotte said as she checked her watch. “Well, he should be here any moment. Shall we go greet him at the door?”

“Of course,” Alex said. She stood and motioned for Charlotte to lead the way. She fell in step beside the brunette on her way to the door. She genuinely liked Charlotte and the way she made her feel comfortable with the process. Although she had been nothing but professional, Alex had a feeling that Charlotte was a little more relaxed than she let on. If Prince Harry agreed to be a patron, Alex was going to like working with her.

The two women stepped out of the door of the office just in time to see the two black Range Rovers pull up to the curb. Security officers stepped from the passenger seat of each one, with the officer from the second one immediately stepping to open one of the back doors of the car.

Alex almost didn’t catch herself before she reacted to the man who stepped out of the car. Of course she knew who Prince Harry was, had seen the pictures. She knew he was handsome, but something inside her sparked when she saw him slide gracefully to his feet just feet from her. His red hair was tousled and dark aviator sunglasses covered his eyes for the moment. The dark blue suit he wore was perfectly pressed and immaculately tailored to his long, lean form and was paired nicely with a crisp white shirt and red and blue striped tie.

Alex quickly shook it off as he stepped over to them. Any woman would react that way to that man, she told herself. She pushed all of that away, concentrating on the task at hand, which was building support for the program she loved.

Harry walked quickly to Charlotte, leaning over to kiss her cheek in greeting. “Good morning, Charlotte,” he said.

“Good morning, sir,” she responded. She then turned to Alex. “Sir, please meet Alexandra Morgan. She is the founder of Healing Families Through Friends.”

Harry simply wasn’t prepared when he took off his sunglasses and turned and laid eyes on the stunning blonde in front of him. When she turned up her big blue eyes to him and extended her hand with a soft smile, he almost forgot who and where he was. Forcing himself to smile, he recovered himself within split seconds, reaching out to shake the offered hand. She slid her soft, warm fingers into his, and he was almost sure he saw something flash across her face, but if he did she hid it so fast he couldn’t be sure. He squeezed her hand slightly again before releasing it, hoping she would react again and he could get a read on her. Unfortunately for him, she just continued the small smile, never losing eye contact with him.

“Nice, to meet you Alexandra, I’m Harry,” he said softly but confidently.

“Pleased to meet you, Harry; and please, call me Alex,” she said. Her voice was sweet and melodic and he almost asked her to say his name again, just so he could hear it on her lips. He mentally shook his head. Good God, what in the hell was wrong with him? He didn’t say things like that, much less think them.

Charlotte watched the exchange with a smirk before suggesting to both of them that they should proceed inside. She could almost read his mind, and right now she knew exactly what he was thinking.

He was in so much fucking trouble.


The walk through went wonderfully, even with Harry’s attention almost comically focused on every single word that came out of Alex’s mouth.

Alex, to her credit, although stunned by Harry and his deep, rich voice upon their meeting outside, quickly moved on, pushing that whole strange introduction to the back of her brain. When she got talking about her center she didn’t have room for anything else. She toured him around the offices and then upstairs where the meeting that was occurring adjourned so Harry could spend some time talking to people currently in the program and understanding how it worked for them. He talked to every single person, making them feel at ease with his questions and humor. He met the three associates that made up Alex’s team; Mia, who was a sort of administrative assistant; Duncan, who was the one licensed counselor she had on staff for really tough moments that needed a professional touch; and finally Sarah, who was the children’s program director. Alex almost rolled her eyes when young Mia dipped into curtsey upon being introduced to Harry, but he didn’t even bat an eye. He simply nodded to her and then shook her hand, asking him to call her Harry. She giggled but felt put at ease immediately.

After the tour Charlotte, Harry, and Alex all convened together in one of the empty meeting rooms. After pulling out a chair for Charlotte, Harry made sure to do the same for Alex and then took the seat directly across from her at the small round table. Charlotte almost laughed at his obviousness.
“So, Alex, we just need to discuss a few things before…” Charlotte groaned as her cell phone rang from her bag. She pulled it out, and seeing who it was, knew she had to answer. She looked to Harry and shrugged. “Excuse me for a few minutes. Harry, you know what to do,” she said, waving in his direction as she left the room.

Alex laughed as the door closed behind Charlotte. “She sure bosses you around, doesn’t she?”
“She’s known me forever and she keeps me in line. So yes, she is one of the very few people who boss me around like that,” he said with a grin.

“So what did you think of the place?” Alex asked hopefully, diving right in.

Harry, surprised at her ease in asking him what he thought, immediately felt more comfortable in the room with her. Usually it was him putting him everyone else at ease; it was nice to be on the other side for once.

“I am very impressed. I like that your program is based off of building friendships with people who can understand, rather than paying someone to listen to you. Everyone I talked to seems to love it here,” Harry told her.

She positively beamed at his words. “I hope so. Losing a spouse or a parent in war…it’s an issue I believe doesn’t get touched on enough. It’s definitely close to my heart.”

He tilted his head at her. “Close to your heart?”

She blinked at him. “Charlotte didn’t tell you?”

“Charlotte tells me a lot of things, but in this case I can’t think of one that fits this particular conversation,” he joked.

She took a deep breath. She had spoken of John so often in the recent years, why was it hard for her now? Why did she suddenly feel like that was part of her past and needed to be packed away nice and neat somewhere to be brought out only on special occasions?

“My husband…he died in Afghanistan five years ago,” she finally said quietly.

Harry opened his mouth but nothing came out. He shut it quickly, shook his head, and then began again. “I’m sorry, Alex. I didn’t know. I feel terrible. I’m…so sorry for your loss.”

She smiled a sweet, comforting smile, that made him want to reach across the table and hold her hand. “Don’t feel terrible. I’m fine. I’m fine because of what I’ve created here. That is why I did this. I had a very hard time after John got shot down and nothing helped except finding people who were going through what I was going through.”

“He got shot down? Helicopter?”

“Yes. He was an Apache Pilot.”

Harry’s eyebrows rose. “Really? Like me.”

She laughed lightly and nodded. “Like you.”

“I do have another question, it is somewhat personal. I hope you don’t take offense,” Harry said.

“No promises, Harry,” she said, clearly teasing him. “Go ahead, what’s the question?”

“Your husband was British, correct? He was in the British Army?” He waited for her nod before continuing. “You are American, what has kept you in London? Do you not have family back in the States?”

Her eyes softened, and Harry could tell she was thinking of something she adored. He knew that look on a woman’s face. That was look of having someone you would follow to the ends of the earth. As much as he tried to deny it to himself, his heart sank. That was that then, she had someone; someone she obviously loved very much.

She was just opening her mouth to tell him just what kept her in London when the door opened and Charlotte came marching back in. “Alright, have you guys worked everything out then?” she said as she came back over to the table.

“Nearly,” Harry said, leaning back and away from the table.

Alex couldn’t help but notice the change in him. How he looked almost…irritated now. She was confused, but maybe it was just because their conversation had been interrupted. She blinked a few times and then turned and re-focused her attention on Charlotte.

Charlotte sensed the change as soon as she walked in, and knew Harry was itching to get out of the room. She wondered what had transpired but for the sake of making her job easier, quickly sped through the remaining items to cover; the scheduling for next week’s public appearance, what Alex and her team would have to have ready, and miscellaneous other little things.

By the time all was said and done, it was mid-afternoon and more than four hours had been spent by Charlotte and Harry at HFTF. Alex was made sure as she was walking them back downstairs and through the offices just how grateful she was that they spent so long with her. Harry was gracious, but still quiet, leaving Alex wondering just what it was she had said if it was even her at all.

They were just walking up to the entry door when the door opened with a flourish and a little blonde haired girl of about five blew in with a huge smile on her face. A middle aged woman came chasing in behind her, smiling but obviously trying to keep up.

“Emma! I’ve told you about opening that door slowly,” the older woman called out after the little blonde.

Emma ignored the woman behind her, focused on one goal only.

“Mummy!” she shouted, laying eyes on her target.

Alex laughed and opened up her arms for Emma to run into. “Hello, my baby!” she exclaimed as Emma ran into them. Alex hugged her tight and then lifted her up onto her hip so that they were eye level.

Alex never saw Harry’s eyes go wide and his mouth drop open. She never saw Charlotte’s head snap towards her and then back to Harry, taking in the shock on his face. She never saw her deceased husband’s mother, the older woman chasing Emma, register shock and awe that Prince Harry of Wales was standing in the doorway. Alex was too focused on her daughter to notice anything else but picking her up in her arms.

“Emma, I would like you to meet two new friends of mine. Do you want to meet them?” Alex asked her look-a-like daughter.

“Yes Mummy,” Emma said sweetly.

“Good, let’s introduce you and Granny to them,” Alex said. She turned to Emma’s Granny then, smiling. “Hi Molly, thanks for taking her today. I’m sorry if she was a handful. The good news is you get to meet our special guests. This is Prince Harry and Ms. Charlotte Blakely, the head of his charity office. This is my mother-in-law, Molly Morgan.”

“It was no worry, my dear,” said Molly congenially. She then turned towards Prince Harry, halfway recovered from seeing him there. She dipped a small curtsey. “Please to meet you, Your Royal Highness,” she said quietly.

Harry, still recovering from the scene unfolding in the hallway, barely comprehended the woman curtseying in front of him, but years of practice snapped him to the present and he smiled sweetly at Molly, extending his hand. “Please, call me Harry. It’s a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Morgan.”

After Charlotte and Molly were introduced, Alex stepped up with Emma. “Emma, this is Miss Blakely. Say hello.”

Emma stuck her hand out, not an ounce of shyness affecting her. “Nice to meet you, Miss Blakely,” ahe said in a sing-song voice. Charlotte was immediately charmed and reached out and shook Emma’s hand, telling her it was nice to meet her too.

Alex then moved a step over to Harry. “And this is Prince Harry, Emma.”

Same as she did with Charlotte, Emma stuck out her hand. “Nice to meet you, Prince Harry!” she exclaimed.

Harry was immediately taken with the little blonde girl as he reached out to shake her little hand. “Hello, Miss Emma. It is so very nice to meet you. Can you do me a favor though?” he asked with a wink.

“Yes sir,” Emma replied instantly, showing off her impeccable manners.

He grinned. “Can you call me Harry?”

“Yes Harry,” she responded with a matching grin.

“Good! Thank you pretty girl,” he said, bringing her small hand up for a small kiss before dropping it back to her.

Alex watched the exchange with pride in her daughter. Here was her five year old, charming the heck out Prince Harry. When all of the introductions were made she kissed her daughter, set her down, and then asked Molly to take her to Alex’s office so she could show their guests out.

Harry watched as the little girl disappeared around the corner and then turned to Charlotte. “Charlotte, can you give Alex and me a moment please?”

Charlotte raised her eyebrows but nodded, turning to shake Alex’s hand and say good-bye before moving out of the door to wait for Harry.

Harry cut to the chase. “She’s the reason you stayed? Her and your mother-in-law?” he asked quietly.

“Yes, of course. What did you think it was? Wait…is that why you were in such a foul mood when Charlotte walked back in?” Alex was confused. Why did it matter why she was in London to him?

“I thought…you were with somebody…” he said, rather inarticulately.

She blinked at him a couple of times. “No, not as such. But, I’m sorry, but why does it matter?”

He sighed. “God, I’m making an ass of myself. I apologize, Alex. I was up early this morning and I’m tired. It doesn’t matter. I’m just surprised you have a daughter that is all. She’s lovely though, truly lovely. She’s your image.”

Alex nodded. “Thank you, Harry,” she said quietly.

He took a deep breath. “I’d better be going. It was wonderful to meet you, Alexandra. I will see you next week for the event.” He picked up her hand, kissed the back of gently, and squeezed it before dropping it back by her side. “Good-bye.”

“Good-Bye,” she echoed as he turned and walked out of the door.

It wasn’t until the door closed behind him that she allowed herself to let out a breath. She tried to deny it to herself, but she couldn’t shove away the moment that just happened. That wasn’t just some friendly, just met someone four hours before good-bye.

God, she was in so much trouble.